Ask EcoBeneficial!

Helpful answers to readers' questions. Go ahead - just ask EcoBeneficial

Kim Eierman

Kim Eierman

Founder of EcoBeneficial!

Available for virtual and in-person landscape consulting, talks and classes.

Buy a copy of
The Pollinator Victory Garden!

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.
Pycnanthemum muticum cwith label

What is the best native plant to attract many different beneficial insects?

What is the best native plant to attract many different types of beneficial insects?  I live in CT.

Answer:

Beneficial insects come in many different shapes and sizes, and are active at different times of year.  So, the best approach is to plant many different species of regional native plants timed to bloom throughout the growing season.  There really is no single plant that will do it all.  Having said that, any plant in the Pycnanthemum genus (Mountain Mint) is a great choice to include in your landscape.

The abundant nectar of Mountain Mints attracts a dizzying array of insects.  Mountain Mints draws bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, ants, flies and beetles.  I cannot think of another plant genus that attracts such a diversity of insects.  I have seen some extraordinarily large predatory wasps on Mountain Mints – not to worry, though, these wasps are highly effective predators of many insect pests.

Mountain Mints are square stemmed with opposite leaves.  Some have very broad foliage and some have quite narrow leaves.  The plants are strongly scented and as a result, deer and other herbivores tend to avoid them. It’s a good defensive strategy to plant Mountain Mint around plants which deer like to browse.

Some plants, like Broad-leaved Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) prefer moist soil, and some, like Slender Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) thrive in dryer soils.   Although some Pycnanthemum species are vigorous growers, most do well at minding their manners in the garden.  Of the four different species I have grown, not one has been a “thug” in my garden.

There are approximately 20 species of Mountain Mints that are native to North America. These are the ones that I usually see available for sale in the Northeast:

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (Slender Mountain Mint)
Pycnanthemum muticum (Broad-leaved Mountain Mint)
Pycnanthemum virginianum (Common Mountain Mint)
Pycnanthemum incanum (Hoary Mountain Mint)
Pycnanthemum flexusosum (Appalachian Mountain Mint)

I encourage you to add some of these plants to your landscape – you will be supporting a great variety of pollinators and beneficial insects.

Good luck!

Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!

 

Posted in

More from Ask EcoBeneficial!

Can You Suggest “Living Mulch” for a Garden in Illinois?

Question: I have a couple beds of Ninebarks and Viburnums and they’ve been there about two or three years. So I’m thinking it’s time to create a living mulch around them. Can you recommend a few plants for ground cover that have ecological benefits, and will fill in around these…

Read More

What Are Some Deer-Resistant Flowering Native Perennials for a Wet Meadow?

Question: What are some native, deer-resistant flowering perennials for wet meadows in the Northeast? Answer: As you likely know, no plant is deer bomb-proof.  In the absence of adequate forage, deer will browse just about anything. Young fawns may nibble on plants that make them sick, as they have not…

Read More

Should I buy Winterberry cultivars or straight species plants? Will deer browse Winterberry?

Question: I understand that berries of some winterberry cultivars may be too big for birds and may have less nutrition. Should I buy winterberry cultivars? I am in Maryland and have not seen the straight species anywhere. Will deer browse winterberry? Answer: I prefer to use straight species plants whenever…

Read More